IntlSOS 30 Years - From East to West - Page 69



04 Globalisation and Growth | Going Global
Major Milestone
Going Global – We Acquire
International SOS Assistance
Claude A. Giroux, a Canadian, was on vacation with
his five daughters in Sardinia when a fire engulfed
their campsite. The youngest child was badly
burned and vital documents, and money were lost.
It took Giroux three days to get adequate medical
help for his daughter and the funds to get home.
As he says, “There I was with all the insurance in
the world and plenty of money at home. Yet I was
helpless.” That experience gave him the idea to set
up a company to provide emergency medical
services for people travelling and working abroad.
The result was International SOS Assistance S.A.
incorporated in 1974. Giroux focused on selling
services to corporations in North America, offering
24/7 medical and other assistance services for
travellers abroad. Over the next few years the
company succeeded in building a strong presence
in the US and Europe.
AEA had many customers in common with
International SOS Assistance and by the 1990s
Claude Giroux was trying to build credibility
in Asia. At the same time we were looking to expand
into other markets beyond Asia, not least
as we needed to support the increasing global
operations of our corporate clients. Arnaud
realised very early on that a combination of the
two companies would be very powerful. However,
not everyone shared his view. The International SOS
Assistance model was much less doctor-focused
compared with AEA and this reduced the credibility
of that company in the eyes of some of our senior
staff. But Arnaud was determined and spent a lot
of time meeting Claude Giroux in different venues
around the world, convincing him we were the
right company to sell to.
Left: Claude A. Giroux (founder of International SOS
Assistance), Arnaud Vaissié and Dr Pascal Rey-Herme,
signing off on the acquisition of International SOS
Assistance by AEA International, Geneva, Switzerland,
1 July 1998.
A Walk in the Park
In May 1998, at a crucial stage of the negotiations
Arnaud met Giroux in New York. Giroux was living
near Central Park and they went for a walk there to
discuss the acquisition. It was early morning and a
very sunny day. As Arnaud vividly recalls, “Claude
came up with a number. He told me not to be
cheap and that I should run with it.” They sat on
a park bench and Arnaud responded. He would
accept the number but in return he wanted a
30 day exclusivity period to find the finances
and close the deal.
When Giroux called his investment bankers and told
them of the exclusivity deal they strongly advised
against it, saying he should consider other options.
But Giroux kept his word and Arnaud had his 30 days.
Arnaud went back to Singapore and worked day
and night with Laurent Sabourin to do everything
needed. As Arnaud says, “it was an extraordinarily
tight window, but we did it.” We were very much
helped by Philippe Pellegrin, a banker, who knew
the company well and did all he could to assist. He
managed to sign off the bank syndication just one
day before the Asian financial crisis hit. One day later
and the money would not have been available to us.
Other money was raised through private equity
capital increase, involving partnerships with Paribas,
Suez Industries and JP Morgan Capital. As Arnaud
points out:
“These were world-class organisations and they
really helped the company’s future growth. It was
an extraordinary event – both to raise the finance in
30 days and to manage it just before the financial
crisis hit.”
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